Former World Cup champion rance face Switzerland, Togo and 2002 semifinalists South Korea in Group-G at next month's World Cup in Germany. "Les Bleus" could have their hands full if they want to get another chance to win the Cup they captured in 1998.
The French squad had its hands full making it to Germany. A 4-0 win over Cyprus put "Les Bleus" in the tournament, but the 1998 World Cup champions drew twice against Israel and Switzerland and once against Ireland in qualifying.
The French had a miserable defense of their 1998 World Cup title four years ago, losing to Senegal in the opening match, failing to score a goal in their three group matches and thus going home after the first round. International football expert commentator Derek Rae does not expect the French to make another first round exit. He believes France and Switzerland will probably advance out of Group-G, but adds that South Korea cannot be discounted.
"Switzerland and France, of course, know each other very well indeed from the qualifying. But they have to be the favorites for me in this group again - France and Switzerland," said Rae. "But it is not going to necessarily be straightforward when you consider what the Korean Republic - South Korea - did last time, getting to the semifinals."
In contrast to France, South Korea made the semifinals in 2002, but struggled in its qualifying group for this year's tournament. The so-called Red Devils finished second in Asian qualifying behind Saudi Arabia. Even so, Derek Rae says that the South Koreans could provide a strong challenge.
"They can be very resilient, South Korea. We have seen that over recent World Cups," he added. "They very rarely get thrashed in a particular match. And of course they will be France's second opponent in Leipzig on the 18th of June. The fourth team in that group, Togo - well let us see, let us see how they do. To be honest my hopes are not high at all."
Togo probably has little chance of advancing out of the first round, even through it finished on top of its African qualifying group. This will be the "Sparrow Hawks" first appearance in the World Cup. Togo has never played South Korea or Switzerland before, and its final group match will be against former colonial rulers France June 23 in Cologne.